The Background

“Genuine Spinning is spiralling, which takes us over, under, around the baffle gates of godfathers into the Background. One definition of the term spiral is a three-dimensional curve (as a helix) with one or more turns about an axis.* Interestingly, one meaning of helix is “the incurved rim of the external ear.” The metrapatriarchal journey begins with hearing the dissonant voices of the foreground and dis-spelling them. As we spiral into the Background Hags hear the Background. One meaning of the term labrynth is “the internal ear”….Hags hearing into the labrynth beyond the foreground hear new voices– our own voices.” Daly, 1978)

*Gyn/Ecologists will not overlook the fact that DNA, the mysterious substance which is the basis of all life on earth, and which determines the nature of every living organism, is in the form of an interlocking of “double” helix.”

Blocking out the foreground is somewhat easier to do when you live in a foreign culture.

What is the foreground? It is the nonsense and pettiness that takes up our days, imposed upon us by patriarchal-capitalism. The endless to-do lists and shopping lists, clocks, dates, places to be, appointments to remember. The non-sense. But more specifically, especially in 2011, the attacks on women’s psyches by the marketing men via the media.

I literally live in a bubble. I don’t speak Japanese well enough to be marketed to, and nobody here is trying to market to anyone  in English. And besides, even if I did listen properly to the radio or TV the cultural cues would go straight over my head. I’m the ad-man’s worst nightmare. I literally cannot be cajoled into buying a product.

Before you think I’m being smug I’m going to tell you that I shop. I do. And I’m working on this. But I have been granted a respite from the endless twittering misogyny that permeates women’s thoughts. I now never watch TV or movies. It has freed up some energy and I am beginnning to focus on the Background.

What is the Background? According to Daly, who invented the term, it is where women weave and spin. I interpret her words to mean the weaving of the revolution. Once you dispel the chattering, the Background becomes visible and you realise it was there all along.

My sisters are doing great work on the front line, battling it out, but today I am going slink back into the realm of women. We all need to do this from time to time to recoup and refresh.

Before I finally attempt to describe the Background, let me juxtapose it once more with the foreground.

Ever wondered why men’s identity is tied to their work? Why trans women are obsessed with public toilets and public spaces? One reason is because men and trans must be seen in order to be, their lives must take place in the foreground and enacted in front of others (while relying on the energy of the women in the background in order to get up to their shennanigens). It is, after all, a performance.

Men can’t fathom the Background; they could never enter its portals because they don’t realise it exists, and even if they did they wouldn’t be welcome there. In fact, if a man did inadvertantly stumble upon it, a secret shift of energy would take place and all of a sudden the same space would become the foreground. Only the women would notice.

All men see of women is their own projections, which of course, must take place in public, when women are in spaces that men can see them.   Needless to say, men have stabbed themselves in the foot when it comes to understanding women by persistently portraying them the way they do in literature and on screen. See my post on Onsens.

So we must move further into the background and carry our work there., The places where trans women and men will never know. The nooks and crannies of society where all oppressed groups of people must take their looms to weave.

Two days ago I cooked a meal for my friend.

I always use local staples in my dishes: bamboo shoots picked by elderly women in the mountains, shiitake mushrooms grown on logs on my friend’s land, burdock root, lotus root, soy beans, konbu seaweed, tofu. Mirin, sugar and soy sauce in just the right quantities are enough to flavour the dish.

A carrot and daikon salad is time consuming. SHe helped me to finish it off. Rice completed the meal, and I served it with a beverage which is in fashion at the moment, and is perfect on a warm spring day: sweet apple vinegar in iced water, tart and bitter, but not too much. Perfect.

We talked. She told me a story about a friend of hers in another far-off country. I felt a benign stab of jealousy.
We laughed often. Sometimes we watched the world outside. Nature, too, understands the Background. The sweet scented gusts of wisteria being blown down from the mountains are just starting to fade in potency as the months move into summer, and now we smell jasmine from the gardens. We were silent.

The food, of course, is just and add-on. It’s not the essence of the background itself. Some of my best Background days took place long before I’d taught myself to cook. I would regard the meal as a sort of prop, an unnecessary, but interesting, compliment to the weaving.

I’m hoping to focus a little of the energy of this blog onto the Background, without revealing too much about the Background itself. Word has it that trans women now trawl radical feminist blogs in order to glean experiences from women-identified women. I don’t want to lay bare the secrets and truths of our lives for any old passing voyeur.

Next week, my friend will cook for me


35 thoughts on “The Background

  1. I am so moved by this post. The relationship you share with this woman, in the context of nature, is so beautiful. Thank you for sharing this!

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  3. Now, how *did* you get to be so radical Cherryblossom?!?!

    (You know me from somewhere else. I’ve been spending too much time there instead of here in the background with radical feminist sisters)

    Beautiful post, beautiful food, beautiful day. Women deserve all our days like this.

    On Saturday I’m going to a bluebell wood with a woman I work with but don’t particularly get on with. I have a feeling we might be able to meet when we reach the background though.

  4. Really nice post CBL.

    I don’t want to lay bare the secrets and truths of our lives for any old passing voyeur.

    They would not get it, even if they saw it.
    Plus the added problem of once they are there, it changes, so they can never experience it, nor really see it, they can (like the do for ‘womanhood’) only have an outsider’s view.

    But oh-so-true, the menz need to be in the foreground, to be *seen*. Narcissists.

    • ” once they are there, it changes, so they can never experience it, nor really see it,”


      A problem is that even a lot of women can’t name the Background (which relates to FCM’S recent post Words on Words). Naming something changes our concept of it, as she pointed out. We don’T (yet) have many words to describe it, but once you acknowledge it, the truth of the experience becomes comfortingly solid. Women go through their whole lives without even realizing how special it is, and how unique to women it is.

      • Oh, I kinda changed my mind a little!

        I think menz do see it (happening) sometimes, and do everything in their power to break it up and assert themselves into it.

        Why else are women compartmentalised off into separate houses… it is risky to menz if and when women discover ‘the background’.

    • prob’ly a mixture of jealousy and fear
      deffo a threat to their dominance

      And just look at the sort of stuff they try to immitate too, like ‘fake periods’ (a comment I made at GM’s).

      I think FCM was onto something with Cargo Cult.
      They seem like cargo-culters to moi.

  5. i like the idea that once teh menz see it, it changes. so they can never see it really. i have thought a few times that we might need to go private in order to keep this stuff away from prying eyes…but i think MD was right…they wouldnt see it anyway.

    i also like the image of the spiral…its so normal to think of time, progress (and struggle and resistance) as linear, the spiral makes more sense, and seems like the better way. over, under, around. thats good stuff! mary was unique wasnt she?

    happy friday everyone! the meal you cooked looks lovely cherryblossom, and what a nice time you had. excellent.

  6. Thanks FCM.

    Mary certainly was unique.

    and no, they wouldn’t see it. I love one paragraph of Daly’s where she explains that the more Radical Women embrace the Background (and each other) the more their language will become *unintelligible* to outsiders, especially men.
    So I take that to mean the more engrossed we are in our weaving (and I believe writing is weaving), and the further we take our thoughts to the end, the more our words will look like the incoherent ramblings of a madwoman to any prying eyes.

    And thinking about it, you really have to be in a radical frame of mind to understand Daly’s work. She was a genius, after all. Hell, most people even have trouble understanding Dworkin and she spelled everything out as clear as day.

    So if men such as that women’s studies professor don’t understand your points FCM, it can only mean you have gone deeper into the Background with your weaving. I recently read his blog BTW where he mansplained feminism to you. God that made me angry. When he sees radical writing all he can perceive is unintelligible nonsense. This is good. We don’t need secret codes. Men’s ability to comprehend an alternative reality is non-existent.

    [that’s if men like him even bother to try. He is clearly deliberately obfuscating feminism on purpose. Pro Christian and pro-porn. What the fuck)

  7. Omg! It’s delphyne! I don’t even want to know where you’ve been hiding, from the sounds of it. Heh. The msm is so horrible.

    Also re Hugo, my mind went there too. He is such the pristine example of this isn’t he? If he had read md at all, he would’ve known better than to admit what he admitted, but clearly he hasn’t read any real feminist work, or at least he didn’t understand it. And yet, he’s TEACHING it. God it makes me sick.

  8. I’ll say it was tough but I got one or two good results there I think FCM. 😛

    Golly Hugo – his droning is *all about* destroying paths to the background. He takes feminism, and turns it into what? I can’t even say because I can’t bring myself to read him. I actually find him psychologically damaging. One look at one of his “intercourse isn’t penetration, it’s enveloping of he penis by the vagina” and I run out screaming. I think arguments based on lies and distortions are harmful to the psyche especially women’s psyches. To tolerate them you have to become numb, unless you are reading in a very combative way which is tough when it’s one of these fake “reasonable” liberals because it uses up so much energy. Energy Hugo’s women fans spend figuring him out stops them from ever getting near women’s words and women’s truths, especially their own.

    My favourite story about him, which I’ve probably told before, is that he says he teaches his students about womens space (which he claims to believe is important), by sending male students out of the room whilst he teaches his female students without them. He thinks that his female students have thus experienced women’s space when he does that. Mary Daly got sacked for doing the same of course but he’ll probably get a promotion.

    • by sending male students out of the room whilst he teaches his female students without them. He thinks that his female students have thus experienced women’s space when he does that.

      What an arrogant dickweed.
      And he sounds like a typical gynenergy vampire, whilst simultaneously pushing HIMself into the foreground.

      The more I hear about this dude, the less I like.

  9. Who else has had those mini-background moments, frequently in the ladies room? Impromptu chat with stranger, and bonding for those moments.
    Another reason the ladies room should remain FAB-only I say.

    • Funny you should say that. Something happened today. I am starting to notice the Background more.

      Background information:
      Last year I went to a summer village festival where (randomly) there was an African woman in an amazing tiger outfit giving out free coffee, and then she did an African dance display. Her three gorgeous daughters were with her and she and I chatted briefly (being the only foreigners in the vicinity you feel an affinity for other “outsiders”. THe word for foreigner here is literally that: outsider. IN Japan, black and white people are grouped together: the Japanese can’t get over our big boggly eyes. Anyway…)

      Today, I drove past a tiny shop that looked a bit African and went in with my kids, fascinated. Of course, it was hers.
      It was a treasure trove of fascinating items. Well, when she saw me she recognized me at once and embraced me! Gave me two kisses on the cheek. Her ten year old daughter was working on the cashier and there was another woman lying on a bench nearby getting a massage (!) from a Japanese lady.
      It was such a precious moment of two women feeling the connection, despite originating from such different worlds.

      • I have frequently had the ‘mini background moments’ in the ladies loo. This probably explains why I am ‘so damn precious’ about keeping it FAB-space, and probably too, why males/tranz break their necks try to access it.

        Too bad for them, it changes when they enter.
        They can only glimpse, if that.

        The word for foreigner in German is Ausländer, which literally translates to out[side] of [the] country/land, along the same lines as outsider. Yes, many foreigners from varied backgrounds will group together in that type of environment. It was there I discovered I could understand pre-schooler level Spanish (friends’ kids). Couldn’t understand the parents in Spanish though, LOL.

  10. hey cherryblossom

    my latest post is very “foreground” wouldnt you say? heh. before i read this post of yours, i probably wouldnt have known WHY what i wrote lastnight feels completely different than what i usually write, but now i think its because i was wrting in the foreground, or moreso than usual. its a damage-control kind of post, or a surviving the patriarchy type post, and not anything really radical, at all. kinda like giving sandwiches and condoms to prostitutes i guess?

    anyway thanks again for this post. i am reading daly next…maybe that and the cargo cult book i never finished. fab reminded me of that one too.

  11. @ delphyne “his droning is *all about* destroying paths to the background”

    THis sentence was brilliant

    FCM, yes very foreground indeed 🙂 You might get some new posters, women who are just hovering near the portal that lies between the foreground and the background but who aren’t quite ready to jump into the abyss…

    I was recommened to read Daly in this order:
    Beyond God the Father
    Pure LUst (which I haven’t yet ordered)

  12. Here I come limping in again! 🙂

    What a lovely post CBL. Thank you, and I sure do appreciate the reccomendation as to the order of Daly; I’m ordering Beyond today.

    Can’t wait for my mind to be blown!

  13. I understand this background completely. There are so many examples we could all give generally, and from our own lives specifically. A beautiful, thought provoking and centreing post. Thank you.

  14. I’m so grateful for the women who carry sandwiches and coffee, women like Gallus and Fabbity. They are able to be in the foreground, find us and bring us to the background. They have the courage to withstand, and the knowing that we who are sometimes trapped there are waiting for them, even when we don’t know exactly which ground we’re standing on ourselves.

  15. Hey Delphyne. When I was forced to get a piece of paper to earn my living, I found my life education had far more value than I had thought. It was a radar for the Huge vampires whose goal seemed invisible to the 20-somethings. We who walk into those lecture halls in our 40s immediately know they are child molesting predators. We make them very nervous. That’s also foreground work.

  16. Beautiful post. The kind that will stay for me for a long time because of the imagery and sensations. The kind that gives me a new way of seeing things. The best kind, in other words.

  17. I dont know how I missed this post. thanks for writing it. It’s such an interesting concept, the idea of the foreground vs background.

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  19. I experienced this exactly as my most recent feminist book club. I’ve mentioned that they aren’t particularly radical. But the power of women together discussing important things… sparks were everywhere. Love this post. Thanks CBL.

  20. For a very long time I have been deeply dissatisfied with cinema’s representation of women. When cinema recognizes us at all, it’s as wretches suffering in man’s world, or the fulfillment of man’s fantasies, or as Mary Sues, strong and good in a wholly foreground sense.

    The Background gives a clue to a cinema that could be wholly and satisfying feminist. It indicates men’s place in it: baffled and uncomprehending, always trying to penetrate (but of course) but never succeeding.

    Wondering if there were any movies that embodied this concept, I realized that Andrei Tarkovsky’s Solaris sets up this relationship of foreground to background. In Solaris a psychologist travels to a space station circling the planet of Solaris to treat a malaise that afflicts the crew and soon falls under it himself. It has been a long time since I’ve seen the movie but what I remember is the psychologist’s slow realization that it is the planet itself causing it. The planet itself is the subject of long takes, emphasizing its vitality and utter mystery to the subject of the film. While the movie was not made by a woman and is not feminist per se, its conception of foreground to background could inform a truly satisfying feminist cinema.

    • Thank you zrussilla. I watched Solaris in Russian a long time ago, and must admit, it went over my head, at the time, but I was only 18. Reading your comment now, I thought, “Oh THAT’s what it was all about” LOL.
      But yes, that does seem to touch upon the concept of the background. However, Solaris was an unapologetically male film, lacking in life or vitality, certainly lacking in *gynergy* .

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